AT for Gardening


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW

Spring is actually in the air at our house—the birds are chirping in the morning and the witch hazel by our garage is blooming with the bright scent permeating the yard. Daffodils are popping up. The earth is turning green and bright.

I have a favorite Rumi quote, “And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.” Those riotous roots have done their work all winter, and now the shoots, leaves, buds, and flowers are bursting forth.

Spring is my favorite time of year; a time of renewed energy, longer days, getting back out doors, and new life.

With the unfurling of the buds and leaves, dreams and plans for my garden overtake my thinking. To be sure, I ordered my seeds in the dark of winter—plotting and planning for the growing season gives me hope. Now, its time to get started in the garden, and there is a lot of AT that can help with that.

We have a great accessible gardening webinar that covers many aspects of accessible gardening: tools, pathways, beds, and container gardening to get you started.

Personally, I plan what I grow based on what my family likes to eat, how much space I have, and potential cost savings. For example, we eat a lot of carrots and onions, but I find them harder to grow and relatively cheap at the store, so I don’t grow them myself. I do grow herbs, kale, fancy greens/salad greens, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. This year I’m also growing sunflowers—more for the beauty and the birds than for cost savings.
Three people working at an accessible-table height raised bed at the Ann Arbor CILI grow my plants in raised beds or containers right next to our driveway—seeing them when I come and go reminds me to water them. Raised beds and containers provide a variety of benefits:

  • If your soil is poor, it provides a method for adding good soil
  • It allows for people with physical disabilities to more easily access the beds—they can be raised to counter height if need be
  • It allows for better drainageA woman using a wheelchair and a woman standing bent over a row of straw bales with tomato cages in them

Raised beds and container gardening don’t have to be costly either. A cheap, large pot or 5-gallon bucket on some pavers or bricks makes a great, small raised bed that would be great for greens, potatoes or even small tomatoes. There is a great Facebook group called the Container Gardening Alliance that provides lots of tips and tricks for container gardening. One tip from me–be sure you can reach all the way across your raised bed/container so that produce and weeds stay within your reach throughout the garden season. I’ve fallen into my too-wide garden bed trying to reach a tomato in the center.

Straw bale gardens  are cheap, easy ways to create a raised bed and use the decomposing straw to feed your plants. A row of large plastic pots sitting on top of large bricks to raise them to thigh height

Adapted garden tools and watering systems also increase access to gardening. Hand tools can be built up with bicycle grip tape or pipe insulation. Handles can be lengthened or shortened as needed to give people the reach they need. Drip systems or sprinklers attached to platforms with hoses run to them that do not obstruct pathways prevent the need for carrying heavy watering cans.

garden gloves, a garden hat and several trowels with built up and curved handles

You don’t need a yard to have fresh herbs, flowers, and vegetables. A sunny window or patio and some pots are all you need—and the plants will brighten your day, feed you and clean your air for you.

There are so many ways to make gardening accessible. What tips and tricks do you use? What are your gardening plans?



What do you think? Let us know!